Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 19-22 2022
Press freedom has been overshadowed by the attitudes and actions of the country's authorities against media reporters.

On March 8, journalist Orlando Villanueva - who had already filed complaints with the Public Prosecutor's Office in Puerto Barrios, Izabal department, against officials and businessmen in the region - was murdered. Villanueva published on the website Noticias del Puerto and Facebook about acts of corruption in the local municipality. Villanueva's murder is one of the consequences of the animosity against journalists and media critical of the central and inland governments.

The Association of Journalists of Guatemala reported 19 aggressions in March - including threats, obstructions, intimidations via social networks and defamations.

President Alejandro Giammattei often stigmatizes the press. "You know what, go to court, stop lying!" he told a reporter from Guatevisión when asked about a corruption investigation in which he was accused.

There is an unwritten directive to ministries, decentralized units and other state organizations not to contract for advertising with any media that criticizes the government or President Giammattei.

The Judicial and Legislative branches also attack the press.

Judge Edgar Aníbal Arteaga López - of Puerto Barrios, Izabal - ordered the arrest of journalist Carlos Choc - of Prensa Comunitaria - on charges of having participated in attacks against police officers during a demonstration against a mine located in that area of the country.

High Risk Judge "D" (substitute), Edwin Ramírez, prohibited access to three journalists to a first hearing in the "Rancho Bejuco" case - regarding a massacre for which former civilian patrolmen were held responsible. The judge claimed regulations due to the pandemic and warned of taking legal action if he "perceived" that the news on the hearing "are not in accordance with what he resolved" or what he believed had transpired in the trial process.

In the department of Quetzaltenango there were aggressions against journalists by municipal employees; in an attempt to avoid "negative news" - while covering up a problem related to the municipal garbage dump - they demanded that the journalists "cover positive news."

On March 8, Congress approved the "Law for the Protection of Life and the Family," - bill 5272. The law criminalizes sex education if it "does not coincide or is incompatible with the biological and genetic aspects of the human being."

Although the law was later shelved at the request of President Giammattei, efforts to silence the press continue with other bills awaiting approval. For example, bill 5940: "Law for the Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents against Gender Identity Disorders" prohibits the media from broadcasting any information or content related to gender identity - in clear violation of the Constitution's provisions on press freedom.

Recently, journalist Juan Luis Font posted on his Twitter account that he was leaving the country due to "spurious accusations" against him - making it clear that there are no legal actions against him to stop him from doing so. Font has been mentioned in declarations of defendants in corruption cases involving former ministers Sinibaldi and Archila. Although he was called to testify in late 2021, he has not been charged. However, the fear is that the Public Prosecutor's Office has kept these cases "under reserve," - so it's not possible to know the progress or the possibility of an arrest warrant being issued against him.

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor's Office began an investigation into an April 4 article published by the newspaper Prensa Libre in which it was reported that many independent judges are afraid to carry out their work because they have no support or security. What is surprising is that the auxiliary prosecutor asked the journalist who wrote the article to reveal her sources of information - infringing upon the principles of protection of confidential sources.